Voters who were hoping to see Rep. David Valadao (R–Hanford) and Asm. Rudy Salas (D–Bakersfield) debate each other are out of luck.
There were two debates scheduled for the 22nd Congressional District candidates. One would have been broadcast on both KSEE 24 in Fresno and KGET 17 in Bakersfield, while the other would have been hosted by KFSN ABC 30 in Fresno.
But Salas pulled out of both debates, his campaign confirmed to The Sun on Tuesday, because of an advertisement that the National Republican Congressional Committee ran against Salas.
The advertisement in question centers on Salas’ vote on 2018’s Assembly Bill 2486.
The advertisement accused Salas of voting to raise taxes on prescription drugs on the state’s most vulnerable.
AB 2486 levied a fee on opioid manufacturers to reimburse the state’s cost for the prevention and treatment of opioid addiction.
Two weeks ago, after the advertisement hit the airwaves, Salas held a virtual press conference with State Attorney General Rob Bonta to defend his record and explain the vote.
At that press conference on Sep. 28, Salas called on Valadao to pull the advertisement and apologize to all of the legislators who voted for the bill.
Given an opportunity to meet face-to-face with Valadao on the debate stage and confront the Congressman about the advertisement, Salas decided to walk away.
“We believe that debates should function as a place of discourse. Unfortunately, David Valadao has made clear that he is only interested in engaging in disinformation. His television ads made the outrageous claim that Assemblymember Salas’ support for AB 2486, the Opioid Prevention and Rehabilitation Act, was harmful to the community,” Salas campaign spokesperson Abby Olmstead told The Sun in an email Tuesday.
“A bill that was sponsored by the Republican minority leader and passed with near unanimous support in the Assembly (65-1) with every Democrat and nearly every Republican joining together in support of the bill. We held a press conference just last week with Attorney General Rob Bonta – calling on David Valadao to take down his ad and put up and apology to the thousands of victims and their families.”
Olmstead said that Valadao has indicated that “he will continue to push misinformation.”
“We are not interested in debating with someone who won’t even say when they’ve made a mistake,” Olmstead said.
“If he changes his tune and does the right thing by airing an apology to opioid victims and their families we would be more than happy to discuss engaging in a debate.”
In light of Salas’ decision to pull out of the debates, both candidates are scheduling separate sit-down interviews with ABC 30.
“It’s disappointing but not at all surprising that my opponent is backing out of our debate at the eleventh hour,” Valadao said in a statement to The Sun. “Rudy Salas has made a career of ducking votes and trying to hide his positions from voters. He’s just confirming what we’ve known all along – the Central Valley can’t trust Rudy to show up when we need him.”